By Derek Taylor
Reconciling the cover art of Ants, Bees and Butterflies with its musical contents requires an exercise in fanciful imagination on the part of the potential listener. The strangely-taloned, marsupial-like creature isn’t named, but it’s a good metaphor for the Modular String Trio as an entity that hasn’t heretofore existed, but exhibits traits recognizable to those that do. Violinist Sergiy Okhrimchuk, cellist Robert Jedrzejewski and bassist Jacek Mazurkiewicz, the latter doubling on electronics, constitute the string trio end of the equation while Lukasz Kacperczyk on modular synth gives the ensemble the credibility for its variant name. Mazurkiewicz also serves as producer and recording engineer for the concert set recorded at a Polish bookstore in 2014.
Measuring to a conservative forty-minutes, the music divides into a sequence of eight discrete pieces. Each is differentiated from the next on the disc sleeve by means of a simple numeric progression that gives the superficial appearance of computer code. Okhrimchuk, Jedrzejewski and Mazurkiewicz behave much like an archetypal New Music/improv example of their instrumentation, bows feverishly scraping and scuttling across strings for stretches while other passages rely on sustained drones and decaying Doppler tones. Kacperczyk’s contributions are primarily those of colorist, shadowing, enhancing or challenging the diverging and intersecting lines shorn by the strings with swathes of ambient noise or swells of fuzz-haloed dissonance.
All three string players make modest alterations and preparations to their instruments on occasion, but the tonalities are surprisingly straightforward much of the time. Midway through the second piece one of the players picks up a shaker, adding percussive accompaniment to arcing string tones and static from Kacperczyk that sounds vaguely like distant rocket engines firing. Mazurkiewicz’s pizzicato preface to the third piece sets up an ostinato undercut by the swirling and swerving commentary of his colleagues. Detailed and rich in carefully parcelled contrapuntal activity, the music transmits passages of dramatic friction alongside sections of relative calm and repose. Electronics and acoustic instruments exist in an engaging equilibrium that allows each operative input and the resulting potential for a seemingly endless inventory of permutations.